John Foster Dulles And The Cold War Press Conference – 1956 – Past Daily Reference Room
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, unmistakeable symbol of The Cold War and the Arms race. In this press conference, his first since returning from the NATO Summit meeting, the issue of nuclear weapons, never far from peoples minds, was the first question asked. Dulles answered firmly that U.S. nuclear strength in Europe would not be reduced as was stressed at the Summit meeting. That didn’t mean, as he put it, that there wouldn’t be some adjustment, streamlining of the Army divisions as was suggested by The Defense Department. The process of adjusting and streamlining was in response to what many considered the potential of modern warfare, where troop strength needed to be mobile and quick to respond. But that didn’t mean a reduction in military strength in Europe.
This was the norm for the era – the Cold War – the back-and-forth. Each side asking the other for concessions in the name of peace, while casting a wary eye – it was mutual distrust. But as was the case with Hawks among the Eisenhower cabinet, so were there Hawks associated with the Soviets – there were those elements who felt the only way this Cold War would be settled was if it turned into a hot one. The potential annihilation loomed very large in the minds of both countries – and both sides accused the other of warmongering. As the 50s went on, additional crises put the world closer and closer to a shooting war. But perhaps it was the ever-present thought of a nuclear winter that prevented either the West or the Soviets from pushing the wrong button.
To get an idea of where we were during this period, here is one of infrequent Press Conferences conducted by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, from December 18, 1956.